The Top 8 Denver Nuggets Games of the 2019-2020 NBA Season

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Original Photo | Taken on December 14th, 2019, when the Denver Nuggets played a regular season game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Pepsi Center

Henry Smith, Journalist

The 2019-2020 NBA season has finally come to an end, a whopping 377 days after it started, and it is now time to recap this memorable season. This was a season that proved each team’s true colors, and it proved which teams were true winners and which ones weren’t. While the Los Angeles Lakers were crowned 2020 NBA Champions, the Denver Nuggets still posted an extremely successful season. After an impressive playoff run where they reached the Western Conference Finals after overcoming two 3-1 deficits, they have captured the hearts of many new fans, and they have finally gained the media attention they deserve as a legitimate contender for the NBA Championship. The Nuggets prove themselves to the NBA world, that they are not just a team that can be expected to lose in the first or second round anymore, they are now seen as true championship contenders by many. Today, we recap the top eight Denver Nuggets games of this season. Most of these games are memorable, but some of them were forgotten simply because the season lasted so long.

To determine the top eight games, I took many key factors into consideration, such as:

  • How fun or exciting the game was to watch? This focuses on the flow of the game. Most of the games on here were either really close, there was a huge comeback involved, or there was overtime. Every game on this list sparked intense emotions out of most Nuggets fans. 
  • Were the Nuggets underdogs or were they at a huge disadvantage? Being underdogs can mean a lot of different things, such as going up against a team that they’re just simply not supposed to beat, dealing with injuries to key players, or outside factors such as road trips, back to backs, or even how much sleep players got. To determine if the Nuggets were underdogs, I used betting odds, team reports, and pregame analysis. 
  • What was at stake going into the game? Would the Nuggets have been eliminated from the playoffs if they lost? Would the Nuggets have moved on to the next round if they won? Was the game a huge standings decider? Was the game a rivalry matchup, where whoever won got the ultimate bragging rights or media attention? Would the Nuggets reputation have been ruined if they lost?
  • Did any of the players have a breakout performance or a statement game? – This could either be a player having a career statline, or a player proving their value or importance to the team.

 

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#8 – “JOKER CALLS GAME” – Denver Nuggets (25-11) at Dallas Mavericks (23-13) – 

January 8th, 2020

This was the last game of the longest road trip of the season for the Nuggets. At this point, the Western Conference standings were extremely close, the second seed Denver Nuggets and the sixth seed Dallas Mavericks were just two games apart. This was a must win game for both teams. The last time these two teams met was the fourth game of the season, where Dallas gave the Nuggets their first loss of the season, winning by just three points. The Mavs were missing one of their stars though, big man Kristaps Porziņģis, but the Nuggets were also missing two starters: Will Barton and Paul Millsap. 

To start this game off, both teams were making most of their shots, however, Nikola Jokić just wasn’t clicking. At the end of the first quarter, the Mavericks led 32-27. The beginning of the second quarter went the same way that the first quarter did, but soon enough the Nuggets closed a 7 point Dallas lead to 1. For the rest of the quarter, several players from both teams made a lot of big shots, and the score was extremely close for the whole time, but the Nuggets never took the lead. At halftime, the Mavs, led by Tim Hardaway Jr. and Luka Dončić, were up 59-56. The third quarter, again, went the exact same way as the rest of the game, and it was still really close, but the Nuggets could still never take the lead. It was getting frustrating watching the Mavericks answer every time the Nuggets made anything, but Denver was still hanging around. At the end of the third quarter, the game gets interesting. From here, the game turned into a three point shootout between these two teams, and at one point, six possessions in a row resulted in a made three pointer. 

The fourth quarter started out with a Dallas run, but the Nuggets quickly closed their lead, and starting at 7:49 left in the game, the lead changed four times, and then it was tied at 101 with 4:45 left. For almost two minutes after that, no one scored, but then Dallas guard Dorian Finney Smith hit a deep three, putting the Mavs up by three. Right after, Tim Hardaway Jr. hit a 2 pointer to put Dallas up by 5 with only 2 minutes left. It was looking like the Nuggets were in trouble at this point, but then, Jokić took over the game. With 1:27 left in the game, the Mavs were leading by one point, 106-105, after Jerami Grant knocked down two free throws. Then, for the next minute, both teams were missing every shot they took, but just when we all thought the Mavericks were going to take this game, Nikola Jokić drove towards the basket with 12 seconds left to play, and hit a layup to push the Nuggets ahead, 107-106 with 7.9 seconds left. Now all the Nuggets need is a good defensive play to win this game, which is exactly what they did. They double-teamed Dončić as soon as he got the inbound, which forced him to pass it across the court to teammate Dorian Finney-Smith, who was also blitzed by two more Nuggets defenders. He was forced to pass again, but as he tried to pass the ball, time ran out and the Nuggets edged the Mavericks by just one point, in an absolute thriller on national television. With the win, the Nuggets were able to hold on to their #2 seed in the west for a little longer. Nikola Jokić absolutely took over at the end, scoring 26 of his 33 points in the second half.

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#7 – “IMPOSSIBLE VICTORY” – Denver Nuggets (33-15) at Milwaukee Bucks (41-6) – January 31st, 2020

This game was one of the most insane victories of the year for many reasons. Before the game started, every Nuggets fan knew that this game was basically impossible to win. Right off the bat, this looked like the worst scheduled game the Nuggets had all season. The Nuggets were playing in back-to-back games; they left the Pepsi Center at around midnight because the first game was scheduled so late. Once they got to the airport, the plane needed to be de-iced, which caused a delay. They finally arrived in Milwaukee at 3:54AM Central time, and arrived at their hotel at 4:30AM, according to Nuggets head coach Michael Malone. Now, not only do the Nuggets have to play the Bucks, with a league best 41-6 record, they have to do it with little sleep. Also, the Nuggets were missing three starters and their backup center, Mason Plumlee. This game seemed like a guaranteed loss, and betting odds heavily favored the Bucks as well, by a whopping 13 points, according to ESPN. For those who don’t understand betting odds and game lines, a 13 point game line basically means the game will likely be a 25+ point blowout for the favored team, and it is something you only really see when the #1 team and a bottom 5 team in the NBA go against each other. 

As soon as the game started, the Bucks jumped out to a 16-4 lead. After that, the game flow was pretty even and both teams were playing at about the same level until halftime. Once the third quarter started, the Nuggets started playing more aggressive, and the Nuggets caught up. The Nuggets took their first lead of the game at 5:56 in the third quarter, when Malik Beasley drained a 3 point shot, making it 78-77. At the end of the third quarter, the Nuggets were up 100-91, and they shot 7/13 from three point range that quarter. The entire Nuggets team was on fire, and nobody wanted to sit, according to head coach Michael Malone. In the fourth quarter, the Nuggets 3 point rain continued, and the Nuggets just out-hustled and out-shot the Bucks the rest of the game. The Nuggets won the game 127-115, making twenty-two 3 pointers in the game. All nine Nuggets who played had at least ten points, and Will Barton had a monster game: 24 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and 6 three pointers. The game was truly a game to remember, and was one of the biggest upsets of the season. After this game, it felt like the Nuggets could beat anyone. 

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#6 – “VETERAN’S SPARK” – NBA Western Conference Semifinals Game 5 – (3rd) Denver Nuggets (1-3) at (2nd) Los Angeles Clippers (3-1) – September 11th, 2020

The Nuggets found themselves in a familiar hole – down three games to one in a best of seven playoff series. This was the second time this season the Nuggets were down 3-1 in a playoff series. They overcame a 3-1 deficit against the Jazz in the series before, but this time they had to do it against the team that was favored by many to win the 2020 NBA championship. The Nuggets had the resilience to do it though, and they knew the series was not over despite being down 3-1. The Nuggets have had a “never say die” mentality for the past two seasons, and have won 4 out of their last 5 elimination games over the past two seasons going into this game. 

To start off the game, the Clippers took a 6-0 lead. The rest of the first quarter was close, however, the Clippers led the whole time. Then the second quarter came, and the Clippers jumped out to a 15 point lead a little over 4 minutes in. The Clippers kept a double digit lead for the whole rest of the quarter, which grew to as much as 16. It felt like the Nuggets were in big trouble at this point. 

About a minute before halftime, Nuggets veteran Paul Millsap and Clippers forward Marcus Morris got tangled up, which eventually led to a scuffle, after Morris elbowed Millsap in the head, where the two players got chin to chin and started giving each other words. The fight broke up quickly, but it stayed in Millsap’s head for the rest of the game. This moment was the major turning point for the Nuggets, for the game and the series. Paul Millsap knew the Clippers had been bullying the Nuggets all series long, and he couldn’t take it anymore, so he put this young Nuggets team on his back in the 3rd quarter. From 6:05 to the end of the 3rd quarter, Millsap scored 14 points for the Nuggets, pulling the Nuggets within 7 by the end of the 3rd quarter. This gave all of the young guns a boost, and starting in the 4th quarter, the Nuggets, led by their star duo of Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray, let out a barrage of 3 pointers, to eventually take the lead, and go up by as much as 8. The Nuggets never lost the ead after that, and took game 5, 111-105. 

As the game ended, the cameras went to Paul Millsap, who you could tell just by the look on his face, was very proud of what he did to give the rest of the team that spark that he gave them to win the game. Marcus Morris’s intentions when he got in that scuffle with Millsap was to bully and get in the Nuggets heads, the same way he and the Clippers did when they took down the young, emotional and inexperienced Dallas Mavericks the series before. But instead of allowing the Clippers to set off their emotions like the Mavericks did, the Nuggets just took it as motivation to prove them wrong. The Nuggets felt like they had all the momentum and confidence they needed to win the series after this dominant second half, fueled by Millsap’s veteran presence followed by a barrage of 3 pointers from the Nuggets top duo. 

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#5 – “MICHAEL PORTER JR. ERUPTS” – Denver Nuggets (43-23) at Oklahoma City Thunder (41-24) – August 3rd, 2020

This was the Nuggets’ second game of the NBA bubble seeding games. After getting blown out by the Miami Heat, the Nuggets then had to play division rival OKC, in a very important seeding game. The Nuggets were missing Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton, so it was going to be a challenge to beat this determined Thunder team, who were five point favorites according to ESPN. 

Coach Malone decided to start rookie Michael Porter Jr this game, which was probably one of the best decisions he has made this season. About five minutes into the game, the Nuggets were leading 14-6, with eight of the Nuggets’ points being scored by MPJ. Then, the Thunder went on an 11-2 run, taking a 17-16 lead. The rest of the first quarter was close, and by the end of the quarter, MPJ already had 12 points and 4 rebounds. In the second quarter, the Nuggets took a lead as big as seven again, but by halftime the Thunder rallied back and led 51-50 at the half. The third quarter was a struggle for the Nuggets. Every time they hit a shot, the Thunder answered. The Nuggets trailed a little for the entire quarter, but never let the Thunder run away. The fourth quarter is when things got interesting. For the first 7 minutes of the quarter, there were several lead changes, and the game was close the whole time. Michael Porter Jr broke his career high of 25 points, when he drained back to back 3 pointers, with 8:28 left in the quarter. The Thunder went on a run and led by as much as 7 for the next 3 minutes, before the Nuggets tied it up again with 2 minutes remaining. With six seconds left in the game, Monte Morris sunk two free throws to give the Nuggets a 109-108 advantage, one that looked like it sealed the game. But, with 2.9 seconds left, Thunder all-star Chris Paul was fouled and shot two free throws. Nuggets fans thought it was for sure a loss, but Paul MISSED one of his free throws, which sent the game into overtime. In overtime, however, Nikola Jokić took over the game, and the Nuggets absolutely bullied the Thunder, outscoring them 12-4 in the extra period, winning the game 121-113. 

Michael Porter Jr. had a career game, finishing off with 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 12/16 shooting, which secured him a spot in the Nuggets starting lineup, something that he himself as well as many Nuggets fans wanted all season long. Before this breakout performance, no one knew if Coach Malone would put MPJ in the starting lineup permanently, because even after some other monster performances by him, he still didn’t get to start consistently. Nikola Jokić also had himself a 30 point triple double, most of his stats came in the fourth quarter and overtime. 

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#4 – “COLLAPSE OF THE CLIPPERS” – NBA Western Conference Semifinals Game 7 – (3rd) Denver Nuggets (3-3) at (2nd) Los Angeles Clippers (3-3) – September 15th, 2020

The Nuggets were on a two-game winning streak. In both victories, the Nuggets were down by at least 16 points. This Game 7 would decide history for both teams. The Clippers had the opportunity to make the Western Conference Finals for the first time ever in franchise history, and the Nuggets had a chance to become the 13th team to overcome a 3-1 deficit and the first team ever to overcome two 3-1 deficits in one season. Going into the game, it felt like both teams had a 50/50 chance of winning this game.

The game started off with a close first quarter that consisted of many lead changes and small runs, which eventually ended in a 24-24 tie. Then, the Nuggets second quarter woes struck again and the Clippers got off to a sizable lead quickly, which swelled to as much as 12 points with about four and a half minutes left. After that, the Nuggets closed that deficit and by halftime, the Clippers only led by two points, 56-54. In the third quarter, the Clippers scored the first 5 points, but then, the Nuggets got hot again, just like they did in the two games before. The Clippers were mostly missing in action, and the Nuggets were hitting shots for the rest of the quarter, which allowed the Nuggets to outscore the Clippers by 15 for the rest of the quarter, taking an 82-74 lead going into the fourth. 

To start off the fourth quarter, the Nuggets got off on a 7-0 run, taking a commanding 15 point lead. At this point in the game, the Clippers were completely gassed and the game 7 pressure was really affecting their performance. The Clippers first field goal of the fourth quarter didn’t come until 4:58, after seven minutes went by. The Clippers scored on a dunk and the Nuggets answered with another run, putting them up 100-80. At that point, the Nuggets knew that the game was over, and they were two minutes away from going to their first Western Conference Finals since 2009. Nuggets fans felt like the Nuggets redeemed themselves from last season, when the Nuggets lost a Game 7 heartbreaker to the Portland Trail Blazers. The Nuggets won 104-89 over the Clippers. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokić both had monster performances in this game: 40 points, 15/26 Field Goals and 6/13 3 pointers for Jamal Murray, and 16 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists for Nikola Jokić. 

The best part about the game, however, wasn’t really the game itself as much as it was the media’s reaction to the game. Many people, ranging from fans on social media to NBA analysts, were poking fun at the Clippers, rightfully so, because they lost in the second round after building one of the greatest rosters ever: Kawhi Leonard (2x Finals MVP and 2x Defensive Player of the Year), Paul George (Top 3 MVP and Defensive player of the year candidate last season), Lou Williams (reigning Sixth Man of the Year), Montrezl Harrell (Top 3 Sixth Man of the Year candidate last season), one of the deepest benches in the NBA, and head coach Doc Rivers (NBA Championship Coach and Coach of the Year winner). When this team first formed, you would have been called a fool if you didn’t have this team winning the NBA Championship. After the game, social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram had jokes upon jokes upon jokes about the LA Clippers blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets. However with all of the Clippers slander, there was also a lot of Nuggets praise. The game earned the Nuggets respect from NBA fans, who now thought of the Nuggets as Championship contenders, rather than frauds and pretenders. The 2019-2020 Nuggets were known as the “Comeback Kids” throughout the media. 

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#3 – “SEVEN PLAYERS” – Denver Nuggets (35-16) at Utah Jazz (32-17) – February 5th, 2020 

Just five days before this game, the Nuggets beat the Milwaukee Bucks (see above) in an almost impossible to win game. However, this game against Utah felt like it would be even harder to win because: the Nuggets were still ravaged by injuries like they had been for the past few weeks, and the Nuggets were missing even more players to injury and a trade. The Nuggets were missing Paul Millsap, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr, Mason Plumlee and Will Barton due to injury like usual, but they had also just traded away Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez to the Minnesota Timberwolves the night before. All of this eventually led to the Nuggets only having seven players available for the game: Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris, PJ Dozier, and Vlatko Cančar. 

You couldn’t think this gets any harder, right? Wrong. The Nuggets also had to play the Utah Jazz, a team that Denver had really struggled against over the past few seasons, and the Nuggets had to play in an arena that they hadn’t won in since December 1st, 2014. The Jazz were 10 point betting favorites going into the game, which basically means that if Denver won the game it would be considered a major upset. This was the Jazz’s game to lose. 

As expected, for the first quarter, the Utah Jazz jumped out to an early lead of as many as 10 points and the Jazz won the quarter 32-25. In the second quarter, the Nuggets caught right up with the Jazz, and they took their first lead in 12 minutes, 37-36. Soon after, the Jazz woke up again, and got off to another lead, and by halftime, the Jazz led 57-49. This was a game of runs so far, and fans knew that whoever had the last run was going to win the game. 

The beginning of the third quarter was slow for both teams, but soon enough, Utah guard Mike Conley caught fire and scored eight points in a little over a minute, putting the Jazz up by 71-56 halfway through the third quarter. It felt like Utah was doing what they were supposed to do now: get the blowout victory against a shorthanded Nuggets team and move on. But after this run, the Nuggets got hot, and the Jazz got cold, and before you knew it, the Nuggets went on a 14-2 run, cutting a 15 point Utah lead down to 3 in just 4 minutes. To start off the fourth quarter, the Nuggets quickly took the lead again, 76-75, after a Monte Morris jump shot. For the next two minutes, the lead went back and forth between each team, before the Jazz started to gain momentum again, going up by nine points, 90-81, once again with 6:46 left in the game. However, the Nuggets still had life in them, and barrelled right back, cutting the Jazz lead to 2, 93-91, with four minutes left to play. 45 seconds later, Donovan Mitchell hit a decisive jump shot, putting the Jazz up 95-91 with 3:13 to go. This was the last time the Jazz scored for the game, and from here, it was all Nuggets. 

The Jazz were the coldest they had been all game long, and the Nuggets overtook the lead quickly, going up 98-95 with 5.8 seconds left in the game after Gary Harris sank two crucial free throws. The game went down to this last Utah possession now. Utah three point specialist Bojan Bogdanović caught the ball, and let a 27 foot three point shot rip with 0.9 seconds left. The shot bounced off the rim and the Nuggets won the game. The Nuggets had pulled off the biggest upset of the season up to that point beating the Jazz in an arena where they had not won a game for 5 years. The Nuggets won with only seven healthy players, including two players that were not even in the main rotation. The victory was led by the Denver Nuggets all star Nikola Jokić, who had a historic triple double of 30 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists, and point guard Jamal Murray, who had 31 points, 12 field goals made and four 3 pointers. 

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#2 – “DOUBLE OVERTIME DOGFIGHT” – Utah Jazz (43-26) at Denver Nuggets (45-24) – August 8th, 2020

The Denver Nuggets vs the Utah Jazz was truly one of the best regular season rivalries, and I’m sure many of you reading this can guess what my number one game of the season is (hint: more Jazz). Almost every Denver Nuggets game against the Utah Jazz this season was a thriller. This time, the two teams were playing in the NBA bubble and both teams were fighting for seeding in one of the last games of the regular season. The Nuggets got their star point guard Jamal Murray back for the first time ever since the season shut down on March 11th. Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. has been going crazy over the past 3 games too. Both teams were close to full health this time, and we knew from the start that this was going to be an exciting game. The first quarter was not good at all for the Nuggets though. They had an extremely slow start, where they only scored 15 points in the first 12 minutes, and they also allowed the Jazz to score 29 points in the same period, putting them in a 14 point hole. During the second quarter, the scoring between the two teams was pretty even the whole time, but this wasn’t near enough for the Nuggets to even come close to the Jazz, and at halftime, the Jazz were still up 14, 63-49. 

In the third quarter, the Nuggets started to come back, and they cut the Utah lead to 4 points, with four minutes left in the quarter. But the Jazz extended their lead again to nine points by the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter is when things got interesting though. In the opening three minutes, the Nuggets went on a 9-0 run, tying the game up at 88 points, but every time they tried to go ahead, the Jazz scored a basket, defending their lead. The rest of the fourth quarter was an absolute dogfight between the two teams. With just 43.7 seconds left in regulation, Jamal Murray made a crucial two pointer to give the Nuggets their first lead since the score was 4-2. Then, Jamal Murray hit another shot, and Jerami Grant knocked down two free throws with 19.4 seconds left in the game. The Nuggets were up by six points and it looked like the game was over, but it wasn’t. With 10.8 seconds left, Donovan Mitchell made two free throws, cutting the lead to four. Right after, Nikola Jokić had a costly turnover giving the Jazz the ball back. On the next possession, Mitchell made a deep 3 pointer, cutting the lead to 1 with 7.8 seconds left in the game. The Jazz went on to foul Jerami Grant, so the Jazz would have one more possession after he shot his free throws. Jerami grant only made one of his free throws however, and the Nuggets lead was 105-103 with 7.1 seconds left. Then, Donovan Mitchell made a game tying layup with just 0.9 seconds left, which sent this game into overtime. The Jazz had just made a 6 point comeback in under 20 seconds. 

For the first three minutes of overtime, the Nuggets scored 6 points before the Jazz could score any, and it was looking like the Nuggets were going to close the game off once again. But the Jazz came back again, and before you knew it, the game was tied at 117 with just 20 seconds to go. The Jazz had the ball, and Donovan Mitchell hit a potential game winning layup, with just 3.4 seconds left. One last possession and all the Nuggets needed was a 2. Monte Morris found Nikola Jokić on the inbound pass and Jokić quickly ran to the basket to hit a game tying layup. 

We all thought this layup counted, but the referees said “Not so fast”. The person running the game clock forgot to turn it on during the play, and we did not know if Jokić hit that layup in time. The referees reviewed the time in this crucial play themselves as they watched the replay. After what felt like the longest review of my life, the referees confirmed the basket was timely. With just 0.3 seconds left on the clock, the Nuggets and the Jazz were tied at 119, and the game went to a second overtime. To start off the second overtime, both teams were making their shots, but soon enough, the Nuggets went on a run to take a commanding 6 point lead with just 22.2 seconds left. This time, the Nuggets held on, and were up by 5 points with 7.8 seconds left. But Donovan Mitchell’s heroics were coming in hot again and he knocked down a 3 pointer with 5.6 seconds left. Jamal Murray then went to the free throw line to seal the deal, but he missed both of his free throws. It looked like the Nuggets were in trouble once again when they were only up by 2 points with 4.2 seconds left. The Jazz had the last possession. Donovan Mitchell took a half court three, which would have won the game for the Jazz. Considering all of the clutch plays Mitchell made for the Jazz, one would have expected Mitchell to bury the 3 and win the game. But he missed. Mitchell’s three point attempt was an air-ball and the Nuggets finally won 134-132 in this double overtime thriller. This was easily the best game of the NBA bubble seeding games, and it was just a preview of what was going to happen in the NBA playoffs. 

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#1 – “DRAMATIC ENDING” – NBA Western Conference First Round Game 7 – (6th) Utah Jazz (3-3) at (3rd) Denver Nuggets (3-3) – September 1st, 2020

Yep. You guessed it. Another Nuggets-Jazz game on this list. This time, it was Game 7, in easily the most exciting first round series of the playoffs. Here is a recap of how the series went before this game: In game one, the Nuggets won an overtime thriller where Donovan Mitchell scored 57 for the Jazz but it was not enough to overcome Jamal Murray’s scoring. The Nuggets torched the Jazz in overtime, outscoring them 20-10 in the extra period. In the second and third games of the series, the Jazz absolutely embarrassed the Nuggets leading by as much as 31 and 39 respectively. Then the Nuggets lost a heartbreaker in a crucial game 4, where Mitchell and Murray both scored 50 points. The Jazz had taken a commanding 3-1 lead. Then the Nuggets won game 5 after being down by 15 points in the third quarter. Jamal Murray scored 42 points. 

Then, there was a ‘season boycott’ in the midst of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, an unarmed black man from Wisconsin, that lasted for three days. This boycott actually benefited the Nuggets greatly, since this gave their best defender Gary Harris extra time to heal from his injury, and eventually return in Game 6. Game 6 was yet another duel between Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell, where Jamal Murray scored 50 and Mitchell scored 44. The Nuggets take game 6 119-107 thanks to Jamal Murray’s offense and Gary Harris’s defense. Now, we are here. Game 7. This was the final battle of the season of this college football-like rivalry, between the Jamal Murray-led Nuggets and the Donovan Mitchell-led Jazz. Whoever won this game not only got to punch their ticket to the second round in, they also won the most entertaining, exciting showdown of the NBA season. 

It was the Nuggets who jumped out on an early lead in this game, where they led 29-21 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was, again, smooth sailing for the Nuggets, where the lead kept on swelling by as much as 19 points. By halftime, the Nuggets led 50-36. Any Nuggets fan who watched last year’s Game 7 heartbreaker loss against the Portland Trail Blazers, where the Nuggets led by 17 at one point, knew that the game was nowhere near over yet, and that the Nuggets needed to fight until the end this time. 

In the third quarter, the Nuggets got cold and the Jazz started heating up, and the Jazz quickly started storming back. In just 5 minutes, the Jazz were already within 7 points, and they weren’t going to stop yet. With 8:06 left in the fourth quarter, the Jazz took a 68-65 lead. The Nuggets hadn’t scored a point in almost six minutes, and many Nuggets fans were getting very frustrated. It felt like a repeat of last season. Finally, Nikola Jokić hit a shot with 7:28 left in the game, the first points for the Nuggets in over six minutes. 

For the next five minutes, the scoring was back and forth: Nuggets scored and took back the lead, then Jazz scored and regained the lead. It wasn’t until 1:43 left in the game before the Nuggets finally went up by four points, after Jamal Murray hit a crucial two pointer. Even after this though, the Jazz tied the game up 78-78, with just 47.5 seconds left of the entire series. This was it. Right after, Nikola Jokić hit a tough hook shot over two-time Defensive Player of the year Rudy Gobert, to take an 80-78 lead with 27.8 seconds left to play. 

The game turned into absolute mayhem from here. The Jazz ran the clock down to about 13 seconds before Donovan Mitchell ran to the hoop to attempt a game tying layup. However, Jamal Murray was there and he stole the ball right out of Mitchell’s hands. The Nuggets then quickly ran up the court, knowing that it was four Nuggets vs one Jazz player. Jamal Murray passed the ball to Torrey Craig, who then attempted an easy layup with 6 seconds left to seal off the game, but he missed it. Jazz big man Rudy Gobert got the rebound and now it was the Jazz’s turn to strike. He passed the ball to guard Mike Conley who quickly ran to the three point line to take the wide open three pointer to potentially end the Nuggets season off of a buzzer beater. Thankfully for the Nuggets, Conley missed the shot as the horn sounded. 

The Nuggets won the series and became the twelfth team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit, and the first one to do it since the iconic 2016 NBA Finals, where the Cleveland Cavaliers made the comeback against the Golden State Warriors, who had the best regular season record of all time, 73-9. Donovan Mitchell dropped to the ground as the horn went off, knowing all of his monster performances were not enough to win the series and that he had lost the final battle between him and Jamal Murray. Jamal quickly rushed over to Donovan Mitchell to comfort him. They gave each other a handshake and a hug out of tremendous respect. When the game ended, I literally ran outside of the house, into the neighborhood, yelling in excitement. I looked like a fool to anyone who didn’t know what happened, but I didn’t care. I was the most excited I had been in a long time. “We did it, we overcame a 3-1 deficit against the Jazz” was all I could think about that night. Easily the best Nuggets game of the season and probably one of the best Nuggets games of all time.